Daraga Church

Daraga Church
Church of Nuestra Señora de la Porteria in Daraga, Albay, ca 1990 (CCP Collection)

Roman Catholic Parish Church of Nuestra Señora de Porteria / Location: Daraga, Albay / Started 1772

Daraga was a visita (mission chapel) of the town of Cagsaua, which was evangelized by the Franciscan San Pedro Bautista, 1543-97, who was custos or provincial superior of the Franciscans in the Philippines, 1546, and later martyred in Japan with other Franciscans. In 1595 the Cagsaua settlement was established by Fr Domingo Santiago, OFM, and placed under the jurisdiction of Camalig. In 1605 Cagsaua was established as a separate town with Fr Alonso de Jadarque, OFM, as first resident minister. The town church was dedicated to Santiago Apostol. In 1636 the town was attacked by the Dutch while the townspeople were celebrating the town fiesta. The attack ruined the church, and a new wooden church was built not long afterwards. Fr Acacia de la Concepcion, OFM, built a church of stone ca 1675. In 1724 this church was demolished by Fr Francisco Blanco, OFM, who constructed a newer and bigger church with a convento adjacent to it. Threatened by their close proximity to Mayan Volcano, the Cagsaweños petitioned the superior government to transfer their town site. In 1771 the majority voted to transfer to Daraga rather than to Culiat, another visita of Cagsaua, because Daraga was on high ground, the farmlands of many Cagsaweños were near Daraga, and many had built their homes there. The petition for transfer was approved in 1772.

Construction of Daraga’s church of volcanic stone began right after the request to transfer was granted. Toward this end the Cagsaweños, on 29 March 1772, requested permission to gather coral in the littoral of Albay for making lime. A year later, work on the church slackened as the mayor Fermin Zaldivar freed Budiao inhabitants from working on Daraga so they could work in Budiao where Zaldivar wanted the Cagsaweños to transfer. Work on the Daraga Church seems to have been sporadic as shown by the negative reaction to the project site in a report addressed to Fr Domingo Collantes, OP, bishop of Nueva Caceres (Naga), on 23 March 1801. Then, Fr Padre Licup, OFM tasked with heading a commission to investigate the transfer of the town site, reported that priests found the site of the church complex on a hill inconvenient.

Politicking prevented the effective transfer of Cagsaua. By 1801 very few had transferred to Daraga. An earthquake in 1805 induced the Cagsaweños to move. Then, on 31 January 1814, tremors shook Cagsaua and surrounding towns. The following day, at 8:30 am, Mayon Volcano erupted, burying Cagsaua town and its church. Nearby Budiao was also devastated by the eruption. Eventually, the survivors of the Cagsaua and Budiao catastrophe transferred to Daraga.

The Daraga church and convento were completed after 1814. In 1851 the church, which had a nipa roof, was given a tile roof by Fr Vicente Lillo, OFM. He also added a story to the bell tower.

The church apse and transept were badly damaged during World War II. The interior of Daraga has been totally renovated. Its exterior, however, is a good example of the decorated baroque style favored by the Franciscans and in vogue in the Philippines from the late 18th century when church construction began, to the early 19th century. The church facade’s vertical sweep is defined by two-story high Solomonic columns, embellished by medallions at the division between stories, and decorating the entire face of the facade. In these medallions are found reliefs of the evangelists: San Mateo, San Marcos, San Lucas, and San Juan. The bases of these salomonic columns are adorned with reliefs of cherub faces. Twin salomonic columns and niches housing santos, a number of whom are Franciscan saints, decorate the triangular pediment. Three arched entrances lead into the church; the main entrance is surmounted by a relief of the Nuestra Señora de Salvacion. Covered with alcoves, niches, statuary, cartouches, foliage, and bas-reliefs of cherubs, the facade is typical of the retablo facade found in other Franciscan churches. The bell tower, built at the epistle flank of the facade, is a sharp contrast in its simplicity. However, a band containing reliefs of apostles and patriarchs girding the bell tower continue the thematic decoration of the church. The church’s right lateral portal, decorated like the facade, is flanked with salomonic columns. One has a medallion bearing the image of San Pedro and another of San Pablo. Above the entrance is a relief of the Lamb, symbolic of Christ. The decorations of the facade were also carried into the interior. However, except for two salomonic columns with medallions and an image of the Trinity, the interior is a new construction.

When the National Historical Institute (NHI) recognized the importance of Daraga church, renovation on the church began. By 2010 the facade was being cleaned and prepared for replastering. By 2014, the facade, the nave, and the bell tower had been restored. The dark lava stones, which marked out the church, were replastered with lime stucco, just as it was in the colonial era. Although those who had known Daraga as a dark black church were surprised to find a white church, restorers had all the historical warrant for their intervention. The work was not just cosmetic; it helped to prevent moisture from entering the church while bringing to sharper relief the embellishments on the church.

The interior, which had been damaged by war, was returned to its original longitudinal orientation, after the sanctuary had been transferred from its original position at the apse to the side of the nave by the early 1990s. The interior is rather plain and terminates in a new retablo that borrows decorative elements from the facade.

The elevated location of the Daraga church gives it a grandeur unsurpassed by other churches in Albay. The Mayon Volcano, in the distance, gives the church a distinctive vista. Daraga church has been given the status Level II-with Marker by the NHI on 16 October 2008. Five decades earlier, ruins of the Cagsaua church, from where inhabitants of Daraga were evacuated, had been given the status House of Worship Level II-with Marker by the NHI 1954.

SOURCE: Manila News-Intellegencer


Originally posted 2007-11-22 01:09:59.